Assessment Brief

Assessment Brief
Public Schools of North Carolina
State Board of Education • Phillip J. Kirk, Jr., Chairman • North Carolina Department of Public Instruction • Michael E. Ward, Superintendent
Summer 1999
Vol. 6, No. 1
Understanding Testing at Grades 3-8:
This publication is an update to the Assessment Briefs Fall
1994 (Vol. 1, No. 1R) and Fall 1997 (Vol. 4, No. 1)
“Understanding End-of-Grade Testing: Background“.
individual student skills and knowledge specified in the
North Carolina Standard Course of Study and
the knowledge and skills attained by groups of students
for school, school system, and state for the ABCs
Accountability Program.
Pretest—Grade 3
The North Carolina Pretest—Grade 3 is a multiple-choice
reading comprehension and mathematics test. It measures
the knowledge and skills specified for grade 2 from the
reading and mathematics goals and objectives of the North
Carolina Standard Course of Study. The pretest provides
pre-scores for third graders for the ABCs Accountability
Program because there are no test scores from grade 2 to
provide pre-data for the growth analysis from pre- to
posttest. The grade 3 pretest is administered to all grade 3
students during the first three weeks of school. The grade
3 pretest was initially administered at the beginning of the
1996-97 school year.
End-of-Grade Tests
During the 1992-93 school year, North Carolina changed
its statewide testing program in elementary and middle
school from using a nationally-normed achievement test
to using North Carolina-developed tests which are more
closely aligned with the state-mandated curriculum
described in the North Carolina Standard Course of Study.
The North Carolina End-of-Grade Tests of reading
comprehension and mathematics measure achievement of
curricula objectives at grades 3-8. The end-of-grade tests
have a strong emphasis on higher-order thinking skills and
are closely aligned with national curriculum standards. The
1993 test scores provide an important benchmark to which
educational growth at the student, school, school system,
and state level can be compared in the future.
The primary purposes of the end-of-grade tests are to
provide accurate measurement of:
Testing Section
Scores on the tests are only one of many indicators of the
achievement of students. The value of the tests lies primarily
in the fact that the scores provide a common standard that is
not influenced by local differences in achievement and
expectations. The tests provide yardsticks which can be
used to compare the achievement of students, schools, school
systems, and the state. The assessment yardstick can be
used to measure gains (or losses) in performance across time
to see if educational improvement efforts at the state and
local level are working.
The end-of-grade multiple-choice tests are administered in
reading comprehension and mathematics during the final
three weeks of school at grades 3-8 each year. In addition
to providing individual scores based on student performance,
the results from the end-of-grade tests provide information
regarding growth and performance for the ABCs
Accountability Program. For the purpose of school
accountability, the pretests in reading and mathematics for
grades 4-8 are the posttests for the previous grade.
Key Features of Reading:
End-of-Grade and Pretest—Grade 3
The end-of-grade reading test and grade 3 pretest in
reading assess the ability of students to use strategies
which enhance reading comprehension including reading
to acquire, interpret, and apply information, and reading
for critical analysis and evaluation.
Reading is assessed by having students read authentic
passages and then answer questions directly related to
the passages. A vocabulary test is not included.
Division of Accountability Services
Although vocabulary development is important,
knowledge of vocabulary is assessed indirectly through
the application and understanding of terms within the
context of passages and questions.
• The mathematics applications part of the test includes word
problems and the application of mathematics concepts
from the seven strands. Calculator use is allowed during
this part of the test.
The passages on the reading test are chosen to reflect
the variety of reading done by students in and out of the
classroom. Passages include literature (short stories,
poems, essays), informational selections in content areas
(social studies, science, art, health, and mathematics),
and consumer and practical selections (pamphlets,
recipes, projects). This variety allows for the assessment
of reading for various purposes: literary experience,
gaining information, and performing a task.
Writing Assessment
Ten passages are included on each end-of-grade reading
test; the number of questions range from 56 in grade 3
to 68 in grade 8. The grade 3 pretest in reading contains
five passages with a total of 28 questions.
The results from the reading tests are reported on a
developmental scale which allows the measurement of
growth in reading across the grade levels.
Key Features of Mathematics:
End-of-Grade and Pretest—Grade 3
The end-of-grade mathematics test and grade 3 pretest
in mathematics assess students’ ability in the seven strands
of the mathematics curriculum: numeration, geometry,
patterns and pre-algebra, measurement, problem-solving,
data analysis and statistics, and computation.
The mathematics test is administered in two parts:
mathematics computation and mathematics applications.
For the end-of-grade test, the mathematics computation
part consists of 12 questions in grades 3-6 and 8 questions
in grades 7-8. The mathematics applications part of the
end-of-grade test consists of 68 questions in grades 3-6
and 72 questions in grades 7-8. For the grade 3 pretest,
mathematics computation consists of seven questions and
mathematics applications contains 44 questions.
Beginning in Spring 2000, field test questions will be
embedded in the end-of-grade mathematics test and the
mathematics part of the grade 3 pretest. As a result, the
number of test questions and test administration time will
increase. However, separate mathematics field tests for
multiple-choice tests at grades 3-8 will no longer be
• The mathematics computation part of the test assesses a
student’s knowledge of specific mathematical procedures
appropriate for the grade level. Calculator use is not
allowed during this part of the test.
Testing Section
The North Carolina Writing Assessment was administered
initially in 1983-84. This test measures written expression
(composing) skills, such as main idea, supportive details,
organization, coherence, and the application of grammatical
conventions. Students in grade 4 write a narrative essay
that may be personal or imaginative. Students in grade 7
write a descriptive or expository (clarification or point-ofview) essay. This assessment, which consists of one writing
prompt at each grade, is administered statewide on one test
date designated by the NCDPI. The results of the writing
assessment is part of the ABCs Accountability Program.
Open-Ended Assessment
The North Carolina Open-Ended Assessment was
administered initially in 1995-96. This test broadly measures
curricular goals and commonly requires integration of
knowledge and skills from more than one curricular goal or
objective. Students must generate responses by writing out
their thoughts. The students are required to analyze, explain,
apply, interpret, and evaluate information in response to tasks
set forth by the assessment items. Responses are scored
using a rubric scale that varies depending upon the
complexity of the task. This assessment, which consists of
12 items (six reading and six mathematics) at each grade
level, is administered statewide on one NCDPI established
date. The open-ended assessment is administered at grades
4 and 8.
Teacher Involvement in Test Development
The professional judgement and input of North Carolina
teachers are vital components for the development of state
tests. They assist in a variety of ways listed below.
• Teachers provide instructional and content validity to the
development process.
• Teachers write test questions and participate in item
reviews and test reviews.
• Teachers administer all field tests. Teachers also review
the test questions prior to and after the administration of
field tests.
• Teachers’ judgments about the performance of their
students are used to set the performance standards
(achievement levels) for the tests.
Division of Accountability Services